An Anonymous 19th Century Poem

love

Thou art a flower, dear heart, a fragrant flower
And I, the wandering, hair-clad, amorous bee.
’Mongst all the regal beauties of the bower,
I seek but thee.
I feel the ivory of thy petals fair
Brush lightly on my belly as I woo
And I would sting thee, if I did but dare,
So sweet you are.
I suck the honey from your dewy bowl
And drunken mad, with wild, delirious bliss,
Within your cup, I yield to you my soul
And drink your kiss….

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Algernon Charles Swinburne says:

swinburne

” Yea, love, I see; it is not love but fear.
Nay, sweet, it is not fear but love, I know;
Or wherefore should thy body’s blossom blow
So sweetly, or thine eyelids leave so clear
Thy gracious eyes that never made a tear—
Though for their love our tears like blood should flow,
Though love and life and death should come and go,
So dreadful, so desirable, so dear?
Yea, sweet, I know; I saw in what swift wise
Beneath the woman’s and the water’s kiss
Thy moist limbs melted into Salmacis,
And the large light turned tender in thine eyes,
And all thy boy’s breath softened into sighs;
But Love being blind, how should he know of this? “

past futures

When I was a kid, I used to be in complete bewonderment about just how jazzy and hi tech the world was gonna be in the year 2000 or so.

( don’t bother looking that word ‘bewonderment’ up., unless of course, you got the current ” Musclehead to English ” cross-reference language dictionary. )

Oh sure….. if you look around ya today, all you can see is new technology.
mmm hmmm…

But it seems like all the current stuff is more about Big Brother knowing my what-fors and where-abouts than giving me a life of convenience and leisure.

( see, it makes ya wish you’d bought that cross reference, now, don’t it? )

And what I wanna know is this: ……….
……………… where the heck is my ginchey projection phone ???

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This is part of a series of cards produced between 1898 and 1910, created by a group of French artists, projecting what the world would be like 100 years hence.

You know, as I think about it now…

The film makers of the 1960’s had a hard time guessing what the present would look like…. they often missed the mark pretty badly.

So you can imagine how hard it was for these Frenchmen in 1898.

And actually, some of what they came up with isn’t all that far off, anyway.

Here’s the full story:

In 1898, a group of French artists, including Jean-Marc Côté, started work on a project to show what life would be like 100 years in the future — in the year 2000.

In Isaac Asimov’s “Futuredays “, ( in which these prints are discussed in detail ), this project is said to have been originally financed by either a toy company or a cigarette manufacturer, but that the benefactor went out of business before they were produced.

Between 1898 and 1910, at least 87 works were created for the project, the first set of them were displayed at the 1900 World Exhibition in Paris.

Many were used on cigarette cards, cigar boxes, etc.

Much of the art they created were also published by Villemard in a 1910 set of postcards — that would eventually become part of an online Bibliotheque Nationale de France exhibition relating to Utopian visions past, present and future.

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This image, produced in 1900, shows an architect putting his plans directly into action by operating a set of relatively simple robotic construction devices, via a control panel with dials and knobs.

In some of the works, there seems to be a very fascinating anomaly in the way electricity is used in the images versus how it is actually used today…

— for instance…

It is shown primarily as an adjunct to human labor —

…. to assist in labor intensive tasks, but not to replace the requirement for it.

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One thing the future doesn’t seem to have changed, in the minds of the artists at least, is the sense of a rigidly classed society.

The working class are shown in typical working class clothes of the day ( fashions don’t seem to have changed, either ) performing the labor as needed, while the leisure class seem to be fully enjoying the benefits of a technological society.

In 1900, technology was changing rapidly, but society, not so much…
………. and these trends were expected to continue.

Here, winged for-sport bird-hunters dressed in traditional hunting garb shoot at quail while aloft.

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Anyone for Croquet ?

One would presume that one of the technological advances not mentioned, but inherent here, is a device to keep the lady’s dress from floating around and inadvertently showing off her three layers of undergarments.

The elites looked forward to more time to pursue hobbies, travel, and the delights of high society, with the added conveniences that technology could provide.

Radiation, thought at the time to be more potentially useful than dangerous, is put to practical application in devices such as this “Radium Fireplace”, used for lighting, heat, and ambiance.

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Certainly, for the educated and elites, this was a very innocent and optimistic time.

A major influence on these artists would naturally have been pioneering Science Fiction writer Jules Verne– his books such as “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea ” and “In The Year 2889 ” can clearly be seen reflected in many of these art works.

Here, some deep sea divers ride large seahorses– with more than just a hint of genetic engineering.

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Something that was obviously NOT expected to change was the idea of warfare.

Several of the images deal with potential future technologies and weapons of war.

War was seen , then as now perhaps, as a very practical method for resolving problems between nations and classes, as well as attaining national aspirations of land and wealth.

Warfare was looked at in an offensive- not defensive- way.

Combat was seen as primarily man-to-man, hand to hand — direct attack.

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Of course, it didn’t take a prophet to predict that future warfare would be increasingly deadly.

But the inference in these works seems to limit the casualties to combatants………

…… civilians wouldn’t be at risk, and society would go on pretty much unaffected.

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Police, Fire, and Mail services would also be improved through technological advances,

…….. though mostly aeronautical in nature.

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The first controlled, powered and sustained heavier-than-air flight was in 1903, and one can see that this advance is both highly anticipated, and is expected to have a dramatic impact on society,

….. perhaps in ways still not at present utilized to their full extent.

Education is also predicted to be changed —

Here, school textbooks are fed into a manually cranked device that translates them into audio and piped into headphones at each desk.

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Taken altogether, these images give an interesting, if somewhat naive, picture of what the world of 2000 would be like.

The whole dichotomy of selectively using electricity while utilizing strenuous manual labor might , perhaps, be making a dramatically overt social statement —

— as the artists’ contemporaries H.G. Wells and Jules Verne often did ……

……….. or it could be simply an example of charming simplicity .

You decide.

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Pleasant Hill Shaker Village in Kentucky

shaker

Today, I have something a little different for you.

You might or might not know,

–that I have spent much of my life pursuing the study of comparative religions.

In particular, I have been interested in religious communities…

……. and have visited many of them along the way.

One that I thought you might enjoy is located in southeastern Kentucky…

…. way out in the rolling pastured countryside…

——— a beautiful, verdant place called Pleasant Hill.

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The community that lived here from the middle 1800’s until the 1950’s, were what the world called “Shaking Quakers” –

—- or even more commonly known as “Shakers”.

They called themselves the “United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing”.

They were an interesting sect…

They lived according to very strict codes of conduct ..

… according to precepts set down by their founder, “Mother” Ann Lee around 1750.

One of their tenets for which they are best remembered is their strict celibacy.

What makes this even more fascinating, is the relative longetivity of the group-

-more than 250 years – considering the zero birth rate, remarkable.

Making new Shakers usually meant making new Shaker converts;

… although the Shakers did take in orphans and abandoned children as well.

( I might also note that there were, as of December 2009, three surviving members of the sect remaining- at the Sabbathday Lake Community in New Gloucester, Maine. )

They maintained strict segregation of the sexes….

At meals, women sat on end of the dining room, and men on the other;

— in their community buildings, there were even separate staircases for men and women.

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They worked and ate together, prayed and worshipped together, but there was always a very formal boundry line between them.

Another of the Shaker tenets is, at least subconsciously, tied to the first.

This is their rule and their raison d’etre: “Hands to work, Hearts to God”.

” It is man’s duty in this world to cultivate his natural powers and capacities, solely with reference to the rendering himself the better recipient of the truths of the higher spheres, and of the elements of eternal existence. ”

What it meant to their daily life was that everything they did, from the way they got out of bed in the morning, to how they performed their daily work, how they worshipped, and how they retired to bed in the evening, were carefully ritualized to give glory to God.

The well earned reputation of Shaker workmanship can be traced to this tenet.

A Shaker building, craft, or piece of furniture was made carefully and skillfully – with no unnecessary frills or ornamentation.

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Celibacy can only work if there is some counterbalance or release.

…. in Shakerism, the striving toward perfection in their daily actiivities, along with their peculiar form of worship – a kind of ecstatic dance – or ‘shaking’, served, one might reasonably assume, to sublimate the sexual drives of the residents.

The basic Shaker doctrines were described by Charles Nordhoff in 1885…..

I. That God is a dual person, male and female; that Adam was a dual person, being created in God’s image; and that “the distinction of sex is eternal, inheres in the soul itself; and that no angels or spirits exist who are not male and female.”

II. That Christ is a Spirit, and one of the highest, who appeared first in the person of Jesus, representing the male, and later in the person of Ann Lee, representing the female element in God.

III. That the religious history of mankind is divided into four cycles, which are represented also in the spirit world, each having its appropriate heaven and hell. The first cycle included the antediluvians—Noah and the faithful going to the first heaven, and the wicked of that age to the first hell. The second cycle included the Jews up to the appearance of Jesus; and the second heaven is called Paradise. The third cycle included all who lived until the appearance of Ann Lee; Paul being “caught up into the third heaven.” The heaven of the fourth and last dispensation “is now in process of formation,” and is to supersede in time all previous heavens. Jesus, they say, after his death, descended into the first hell to preach to the souls there confined; and on his way passed through the second heaven, or Paradise, where he met the thief crucified with him.

IV. They hold themselves to be the “Church of the Last Dispensation,” the true Church of this age; and they believe that the day of judgment, or “beginning of Christ’s kingdom on earth,” dates from the establishment of their Church, and will be completed by its development.

V. They hold that the Pentecostal Church was established on right principles; that the Christian churches rapidly and fatally fell away from it; and that the Shakers have returned to this original and perfect doctrine and practice. They say: “The five most prominent practical principles of the Pentecost Church were, first, common property; second, a life of celibacy; third, non-resistance; fourth, a separate and distinct government; and, fifth, power over physical disease.” To all these but the last they have attained; and the last they confidently look for, and even now urge that disease is an offense to God, and that it is in the power of men to be healthful, if they will.

VI. They reject the doctrine of the Trinity, of the bodily resurrection, and of an atonement for sins. They do not worship either Jesus or Ann Lee, holding both to be simply elders in the Church, to be respected and loved.

VII. They are Spiritualists. “We are thoroughly convinced of spirit communication and interpositions, spirit guidance and obsession. Our spiritualism has permitted us to converse, face to face, with individuals once mortals, some of whom we well knew, and with others born before the flood.” They assert that the spirits at first labored among them; but that in later times they have labored among the spirits; and that in the lower heavens there have been formed numerous Shaker churches. Moreover, “it should be distinctly understood that special inspired gifts have not ceased, but still continue among this people.” It follows from what is stated above, that they believe in a “probationary state in the world of spirits.”

VIII. They hold that he only is a true servant of God who lives a perfectly stainless and sinless life; and they add that to this perfection of life all their members ought to attain.

IX. Finally, they hold that their Church, the Inner or Gospel Order, as they call it, is supported by and has for its complement the world, or, as they say, the Outer Order. They do not regard marriage and property as crimes or disorders, but as the emblems of a lower order of society. And they hold that the world in general, or the Outer Order, will have the opportunity of purification in the next world as well as here.

In the practical application of this system of religious faith, they inculcate a celibate life; “honesty and integrity in all words and dealings;” “humanity and kindness to friend and foe;” diligence in business; prudence, temperance, economy, frugality, “but not parsimony;” “to keep clear of debt;” “suitable education of children;” a “united interest in all things,” which means community of goods; suitable employment for all; and a provision for all in sickness, infirmity, and old age.

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Now, I know you probably think yer Old Uncle Muscleheaded is just a old heathen, but that’s not really true…

I have always been quite sensitive to the spiritual part of my nature……

…………..and this place was made for introspection and meditation….

 

Even though the people who built this place are long gone,

you can still feel their presence.

you can still hear their worship.

you can still see their love.

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The last Shaker left Pleasant Hill in the early 1950’s….

It was left to the care of the Commonwealth of Kentucky, who eventually restored it and made it a Historic Site.

………..even before it was restored, it was noted as such a place……

In 1959, Thomas Merton wrote about his visit to Pleasant Hill and the :

“…marvelous double winding stair going up to the mysterious clarity of a dome on the roof …”

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” ….the quiet sunlight filtering in—
——— a big Lebanon cedar outside one of the windows …

All the other houses are locked up.

There is Shaker furniture in the center family house.

I tried to get in it and a gloomy old man living in the back told me curtly “it was locked up.”

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” The empty fields, the big trees—
——- how I would love to explore those houses and listen to that silence …… ”

“In spite of the general decay and despair there is joy there still and simplicity…
Shakers fascinate me.”
(Thomas Merton)

Well, you can do what Merton could not –

Tour the grounds and see the Shaker Village the way it was when the Shaking Quakers actually lived here as early as 1805……

It has been beautifully and lovingly restored – and a day spent here is a day well spent….

————nowhere will you experience such a feeling of natural harmony ———

You might remember I said that the Shaker’s motto was “Hands to Work, Hearts to God”..

and you can see this principle at work —-
in their craftsmanship, in their gardens, in their architecture .

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This is a sacred place, there is no doubt about it.

So….. if you find yourself wandering around Southeastern Kentucky one of these fine days,
….. with no particular place to go……

or you need a little spiritual or intellectual inspiration…..

or you just need a little peace, quiet, and natural beauty…….

well….
I know a place that’s just waiting for you to hang your hat and set a ‘spell.

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